Buddleja – the new patio plant?

Purple Leaf Blackthorn shares her Suffolk garden, on a rural windswept site, with chatty cats, free-range chickens and ducks as well as a rich local fauna of birds, rabbits, rats, moorhens and deer.  With a focus on diversity, scent and colour – foliage or flower, whilst competing with the strong prevailing winds … it’s a survival of the fittest approach to gardening.

buddleja

Buddlejas are rather tough hardy strong plants, so when this tiny twig arrived, Buddleja davidii  ‘Colour Fountain Blue’, I didn’t hold out much hope for its survival.  So the plug was planted into a 7cm pot and overwintered in our cold greenhouse.

buddleja

Come spring 2014, I did not know what to do with this ‘twig’, which certainly didn’t look tough enough to make it into our garden let alone a blackbird’s nest!  So I planted it in a patio pot along with some Lobelia ‘Ultra Cascade’ … another delicate plant.  Needless to say the lobelia took off, as they say with a little help from their friends (fertiliser Incredibloom ®) and the buddleja grew at a steady pace, though initially overshadowed by its’ half-hardy but butterfly-friendly neighbour, the lobelia .  Thanks to this year’s fantastic early summer weather ‘Colour Fountain Blue’ burst into flower … well certainly before any related garden-planted Buddleja davidii cultivars.  Not only that, the beautifully disproportionally-sized racemes accentuated a naturally weeping habit.  The name ‘Fountain’ could not be more appropriate.  Who would have thought a butterfly bush could be used as a patio plant extraordinaire!

 

If you don’t have this one growing in a patio pot … you’re butterflies are missing out!  Current research still places Chinese Buddleja davidii cultivars at the top of the butterfly a-la-carte buffet on account of their high sucrose content.  And Butterfly Conservation says butterflies are in decline.  We can help!

buddleja

Buddleja ‘Colour Fountain Blue’ – petite and posh, could this be the new patio hanging basket plant?  Perhaps!  Now I wait in anticipation for any new colours to join the ‘Fountain’ range.

 

Purple Leaf Blackthorn

Thompson & Morgan
Since the first seed catalogue was published in 1855, Thompson & Morgan has grown to become one of the UK’s largest Mail Order Seed and Plant companies. Through the publication of our catalogues and the operation of our award-winning website, Thompson & Morgan is able to provide home gardeners with the very best quality products money can buy.

Edible Flowers – useful in any garden

Edible flowers can make a useful and delightful addition to any garden – whether big, small and practical or pretty – they can help boost any garden in question. Edible flowers can be used in a variety of ways and grow easily and quickly for a fast harvest.

edible flowers

I decided to use an old tin bath to create my edible flower garden as part of my smallholding in Suffolk. I enjoyed growing mine, as whilst they were growing and before they were picked ready for eating, they add colour and fragrance to my vegetable garden! I believe they make a welcomed addition to any allotment or garden – they attract the helpful bees too.

I received a bunch of edible flower seeds from Thompson and Morgan. The seeds were:
Chives
Viola tricolor – Wild Pansy
Calendula ‘Sherbet Fizz’
Cornflower ‘Blue Diadem’
Oenothera – ‘Lemon Sunset’

The chives have been so useful. I have been using them to add to salads, soups and to replace onion in other recipes – adding to home produced free range scrambled eggs is a favourite in our house!

My pansies were a beautiful purple and yellow colouring and were very delicate.  Pansies have a lettuce and salad like flavour so are perfect to add in small quantities to home-made salads. Additionally, they can be sugared or crystallised to add to a number of sweet dishes such as cakes, desserts or even confectionery.

edible flowers

Calendula ‘Sherbet Fizz’ (Marigold) are the yellow and orange flowers and have a slightly peppery taste to them. I like using them in soups and salads. Additionally, baking with this edible flower can produce tasty breads and biscuits. Note – use in small quantities as can be a diuretic.

edible flowers
Cornflowers have a lovely striking deep blue colour to them and make a delightful addition to an edible flowerbed. They have a clove-like flavour and thus can be used to decorate salads, pasta dishes and eaten with other edible flowers.

Oenothera ‘Lemon Sunset’. Otherwise known as evening primrose; this edible flower has a lettuce; salad flavour to it so is obviously great to add to salads.

When adding to any cooking ensure to wash and rinse them properly, check which parts are okay to eat (i.e. stem, leaves, and petals) and also use in small quantities the first few times you cook with it. I really enjoyed this project making a mini edible garden plot in my smallholding and hope this post has been useful to future edible flower growers!

Katy, The Good Life In Practice

Katy Runacres
Katy is a smallholder, cook and writer. She keeps Chickens, Bantams, Meat Rabbits and has a resident cat called Podge. She takes an interest in all aspects of homesteading and has written pieces for a number of magazines including Backwoods Home, Bushcraft, Country Smallholding, Home Farmer and Smallholder. Katy is a member of the Essex and Suffolk Poultry Club and has a Diploma in Countryside Management.

Plants on trial – a sneaky peak

I have always been a fan of over the top, in your face bedding displays and every year I plant out hundreds of plants in beds, pots and baskets. Over the last few years, due to work commitments, I have been finding the up keep a bit difficult.

Alstromeria

Alstroemeria ‘Planet Mix’

Last year I planted Alstroemeria ‘Planet Mix’ in one of the beds. They gave a great show last year and have been in flower since May this year. Each week I can easily cut 20 stems of flowers without harming the display. Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’ has also come back bigger and better this year. I just love the combination of red and yellow in the flowers.

Gaillardia

Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’

Early this year I converted another two beds to display perennial plants. Considering it’s only the first summer after planting I am really surprised at how mature it all looks. I have used cottage garden plants along with Penstemon ‘Wedding Bells’ and Foxglove which were both sent as trial plants last year. The spotty markings in the foxglove are just fab!

Foxglove

Foxglove

Begonias have to be my favourite plant. I am so glad that Thompson & Morgan are reviving these plants as they truly are amazing. Glowing Embers, Peardrop and Giant Picotee have all started to flower. A few years ago I trialled a trailing fragrant variety of begonia. I still have some of these tubers left and this year I have planted them in a window box under the kitchen window. The sweet scent is lovely in the warm muggy evenings we have been having.

Begonias

Another favourite are petunias. I just love how T&M find new amazing colour combos in the flowers each year.  I have  planted Black Cherry in my Begonia Apricot Shades baskets. I am hoping the black of the flower will contrast well with the citrus colours of the begonias. The scent of petunias is just intoxicating too. The dark varieties seem to have the strongest. I wish someone could capture this and put it into a candle.

Petunias

I do not plant as many containers for the winter season, so once all the plants had finished I would empty the compost into the large tonne bags you can get from the builders. This year as I have drastically reduced the amount of summer containers I have planted I still have a full tonne bag of compost left. Not knowing what to do with it I decided to plant veg in it. I think I have gone a bit over the top by planting tomatoes, chillies, aubergines, sweet corn, marrow and cucumbers in it. I have also planted climbing beans around the edge. The idea being they will trail and cover the sides.

Veg-planter

So far everything is growing superbly. I have already harvested tomatoes, cucumber and chillies. The sweetcorn is almost 5 foot tall! In separate planters I have peas almost ready to pick and the tomato also has fruit setting.

Well, I must get back to the watering. I hope to update you all on the garden very soon!

Bijal Mistry
As a member of Thompson & Morgan’s customer trial panel, Bijal Mistry tests plants, bulbs and seeds in his own garden on the outskirts of Manchester. He has won several awards and is happiest tending to his garden, especially the begonias and poinsettias!

Lessons learnt from a beginner gardener – 18 months on

In December 2012 I wrote my first blog for Thompson & Morgan, all about my first year as a grower of vegetables. Time has passed by rapidly and I have learnt so much in the past 18 months as a beginner gardener. I thought it was time to tell you more about what I have been up too.

Season two began slowly, the spring of 2013 was really cold and stuff just wouldn’t grow. After learning a few things the previous season, I didn’t plant carrots or parsnips. I just couldn’t handle the worry of carrot fly and forking. I wanted to enjoy the garden as well as eat my produce.

Another change in 2013, I gave up one of my beds for flowers. I love flowers and for many years bought huge numbers from supermarkets or anywhere else I saw them. They were always lovely, but I was aware that they were not “just cut”, they had probably been heavily treated with chemicals. I wanted fresh, scented, cut that morning flowers, so I decided to try and grow some for myself.

Garden

Season two progressed nicely but it was not without its problems. One glaring mistake caused much merriment for lots of people all over the summer. Early in the year I sat with my T&M catalogue and picked the things I wanted to grow. I love courgettes, but they tend to take over, wherever you planted them. I spotted some that you could train and decided they were the perfect variety for me “Black Forest”. I built, what later became dubbed “The Leaning Tower of Barton” out of bamboo canes and collected my plants from the greenhouse.

Now in my defence I will say that most squash plants look the same until they produce something.  I happily planted my three courgette plants around the tower and began to train them upwards. They grew rapidly and soon flowers were appearing and then I could see the courgettes themselves beginning to grow. One of the plants though, seemed to be producing supersize veg.

It took me a few weeks but suddenly I realised that I had mixed up my plants. The super size veg were not courgettes. I had somehow managed to train a pumpkin up a trellis. Now the pumpkins were getting large, action was required to prevent them dropping off. So I made pumpkin slings out of net.

pumpkin

Those pumpkins were probably the best I have ever grown. As they were suspended 4 feet off the ground, they ripened beautifully in the sunshine and were not attacked by anything. When the pumpkins begin to appear this year, I will suspend them above the soil in slings.

pumpkin

This year the “Leaning Tower” definitely has only Courgettes growing up it!

Most of the other veg I grew was very successful, one minor error, I made an amazing bamboo frame for my peas and was very disappointed when they didn’t grow very high.  Subsequent examination of the packet revealed I had bought Dwarf Peas. This year, I was very careful selecting the correct variety, they are currently about 7 feet high and still growing.

dwarf peas

I became aware through social media, that there were a growing number of people, who were planting their own flowers and cutting them for sale or just for personal pleasure. So last summer with no experience of large scale flower growing, or in fact no idea of what I was going to end up with, I planted a whole bed with flower seeds. The result was a summer of flowers in my house, nothing purchased at a supermarket or florists.

cut flowers

But I knew I could do better, so I spent the winter, researching plants, going on courses and generally planning my flower year. I found resources which showed you could pretty much grow flowers all year round here in the UK and never have to buy them again. So this is now my mission. The one bed from last year has become two this year, and numerous pots as well. I have also used the borders and fences in the other part of the garden for sweet peas and anything else I can squeeze in.

I was also able to help out someone else on a special day. A few weeks ago I took a few jam jar posies into the charity shop I volunteer at. A customer saw them and asked where they came from. She was put in touch with me by the manager and she told me her story. Her sister was getting married the following Saturday and she wanted home grown flowers. Her dad had planted a load in the Spring, but for various reasons, not enough had grown. She asked if I could help out.

So it was, that last week, in the late evening when it was safe to cut, lots and lots of my flowers went on their way to be used at the wedding. The very happy bride, made a lovely donation to the Hospice I volunteer for. I cant describe the pleasure it gave me to be able to help.

In 2012 I was a novice, now in 2014, I could almost say I am a proper gardener. I love my plot and really enjoy sharing  all my stories from it. If you want to know more about my garden, and especially more about growing your own flower and food, come on over to my blog for a read.

I am a 51 year old retired public servant and living by the sea in Hampshire with my husband of 22 years, a 10 month old chocolate labrador named Gibson and three hens, Margot, Babs and Geri. My hobbies are gardening which I hope I will eventually become more accomplished at, walking and reading and I volunteer at a local Hospice which gives me an enormous amount of pleasure.

Tree lily – the perfect performers for time-strapped gardeners

What a difference two years can make! Back in spring 2012, I planted five Tree Lily ‘Pink Explosion’ bulbs deep into a large, glazed patio pot filled with a 50/50 mix of multi-purpose and loam-based compost. I then stood back expecting big things.

Tree lily

Big things I got! Come mid-summer, thick 4ft stems were graced with lush foliage (free from lily beetle), each holding at least 6 flower buds. They soon burst open to offer huge vibrant flowers that filled the garden with that unmistakable heady scent that lilies are renowned for. A gorgeous display that only needed regular watering, and a high potash liquid feed as the buds developed. As you can see from the picture below, my daughter – two years old at the time, was the perfect height for a gorgeous photo opportunity.

Tree lily

After removing dead flowers, I left the stems to die back naturally, drawing energy back into the bulbs. Late autumn these were cut right down and the pot was left to face winter outdoors.

Late spring 2013 – I top-dressed the pot with manure pellets and started watering in dry spells. That summer the flowers were on 6-7ft stems. The only other upkeep was a liquid feed as buds showed (up to 10 per stem). Again, no sign of lily beetle.

Tree lily

The  following picture shows the amazing display this year. They have certainly outgrown my daughter! Nearly 8ft tall with 13 to 16 flowers on each stem. Look how they have multiplied in the pot, with young stems joining in too. I did notice beetle damage on a few leaves this season, but in three years I’ve spotted just one beetle on these plants.

Tree lily

With two young children to keep occupied, time working in my garden is precious, and I need plants that will perform with minimum input. Tree Lily ‘Pink Explosion’ fits the bill perfectly. Three years of strong garden performance all for the effort of a spring top dressing, a liquid summer feed, 15 minutes removing dead flowers and 10 minutes of cutting back. They even support themselves, so no staking needed! What more could you ask for?

Kris Collins
Kris Collins works as Thompson & Morgan’s communications officer, making sure customers new and old are kept up to date on the latest plant developments and company news via a wide range of media sources. He trained in London’s Royal Parks and has spent more than a decade writing for UK gardening publications before joining the team at Thompson & Morgan.

National Garden Scheme – It started as a hobby

It all started as a hobby 30 years ago and now we’re opening our garden for the National Garden Scheme for the 5th year running! The garden behind the house was once a scrap yard, so we started by clearing it to make a garden for our young family.

It all started as a hobby

 

It all started as a hobby

Next door were once allotments, we watched them for 20 years slowly being reclaimed by nature, bindweed, nettles and brambles. In 2006 we acquired over half an acre of land in the centre of town and so began our huge project. We knew the bricks to rebuild the walls were in the undergrowth somewhere. My husband said you clean the bricks and I’ll build the walls, I thought he was joking, how wrong was I.

It all started as a hobby

So, after 140 tons of rubbish was taken away, all that was left was one apple tree and a handful of snowdrops.

It all started as a hobby

We had a huge new garden to fill, so I started taking cuttings from the original garden and sowing seeds, to keep the cost down.

It all started as a hobby

Now the garden is filled with trees, shrubs and flowers for all year round interest!

By Joy Gough

Terri Overett
Terri works in the e-commerce marketing department assisting the busy web team. Terri manages our blog and social media pages here at Thompson & Morgan and is dedicated to providing useful advice to our gardeners. Terri is new to gardening and keen to develop her horticultural knowledge.

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